Page 3 of 3   <      

Hope Fades but Anger Is Alive as Iran's Rulers Crack Down

After a hotly contested election pitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, the government declared Ahmadinejad the winner on June 13. Mousavi's supporters took to the streets to protest the results, and were met with harsh security crackdowns.

"I didn't go out anymore. I was sure that people would die," Mehrdad said. "I felt bad not to go, but it was clear that there would be shooting."

Maysam has also stayed home. "We can't stand up to the security forces," he said.

"You can feel the anger," Aida said. "Some are ready to die."

With a demonstration Wednesday dispersed by security forces and lines of communication cut by the government, Mousavi's movement is at a crossroads. Nobody is sure what the next step will be, or whether there will even be a next move. Many speculate that Mousavi is under house arrest, because he has not been heard from in days.

"There is a total media blackout," Maysam said. In recent days, he has been unable to open his e-mail, and text messaging has been disrupted since the election.

Mehrdad was surprised by the reaction of Iran's leaders to the protests. "We were there participating in one of the pillars of the political system, the election. Nobody shouted slogans against the leader. But now people say extreme things," he said. "If there is any upside to this dark period, it is the self-confidence and unity of normal people."

But it is a confidence tinged with deep sadness.

"There is lots of crying going on in Tehran," Aida said.

At night, Mousavi supporters go to their balconies and shout "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," in support of their candidate. But even as they shout, the protesters wonder whether it does any good.

"Our only hope is Mousavi," Maysam said. "But what can he do? Our future is dark. It hurts us to think of it. I'm in pain. I don't know where this will end."

<          3

© 2009 The Washington Post Company